At this time of year, most stores have already set up their Christmas window displays, reminding us that it’s time to buy those special presents for friends and family.
We’re also decorating our homes and putting up the flashing reindeer and icicle lighting on the front porch (or is that just us?!). It reminds us that Christmas is coming and we still haven’t bought the darn turkey.
At the same time, across the world, sci-fi fans are getting very, very excited about the new Star Wars film which opens on December 18th. Wherever you look, there is Star Wars stuff, from toys to t shirts, mini figures to dog costumes (yes, really - see left).
So, three top trending topics this month are #Christmasgifts, #xmaslights and #StarWarstoys. By clever use of blogs and hashtags, your business can become part of the online conversations these trending topics create.
Trending topics and hashtags
If you’ve never followed a trending topic on social media, here’s how it works. People create a short phrase to describe a topic that’s in the news or of interest, and others add it to relevant posts on social media.
This is known as a hashtag, and always has a hash symbol (#) in front of it. Even if the topic has more than one word, the words are always run together. Hence #humanrightsday and #GoldenGlobes, for example.
Hashtags are most useful in Twitter and Facebook, as you can search for the latest posts about any given subject. Facebook has a Trending section and Twitter has a Trends section, where you can see what people are talking about. Here's what they look like (Facebook on left, Twitter on right).
Why trending topics are good for business
Trending topics offer you the opportunity to be part of a truly worldwide conversation about an issue or news story, be it Donald Trump’s latest pronouncements, or the Japanese company that has made chocolate that looks like sliced cheese.
The reason to be involved is that it opens up your social media stream to a whole new world of potential customers - IF you can make the topic relevant to your business. Start with something straightforward.
- If you are busy trimming the company Christmas tree, that’s great, post about it and hashtag it #Christmastree.
- If your entire company is going to the new Star Wars film in costume, including the dog, hashtag it #Starwars.
- If you can get a picture of everyone in their Star Wars costumes next to the company Christmas tree waving their movie tickets which you have bought them as a special Xmas bonus, go hashtag crazy - #StarWarstickets, #officeXmastree #ilovemyboss.
Why hashtags are so powerful
As any customer service manager should know, social media can be a powerful tool for protest when businesses fail to provide good service. The hashtag #epicfail combined with a company name is a standard format for complaint.
However, the same #epic fail hashtag is also often applied to video clips and posts about foolish antics.
So, a very diverse audience see both the fun stuff and the serious stuff, all on one page, even if they are only looking for that video of the cats sledging down the stairs in a cardboard box. (https://t.co/c7vbZhj1YT).
Don’t be afraid to join in
Some business owners may worry that by joining in a hashtag trend, they may be opening up their business to possible adverse comments or exposure.
What you are actually doing is opening up a conversation which will require some answers should anyone wish to comment. So, yes, you will need to keep an eye on any comments or retweets as a result, and reply to them.
Lurk before you leap
If this is all new to you, try before you tag. Check out the Trends in both Facebook and Twitter, or search for a particular hashtag (e.g. #UglyChristmasSweaters) and see what comes up!